Cougar nation is buzzing folks.
For many, the last four excruciating seasons of Cougar football became a distant memory the day former Texas Tech University Head Coach Mike Leach arrived in Pullman amid historic fanfare.
Much has been made of Leach’s quirky sense of humor, his affinity for pirates and his controversial departure from TTU. While Leach’s personality transcends football, his time at WSU will ultimately be judged on his win-loss record. There is little doubt he has the coaching pedigree to replicate the 84-43 record he posted during his 10 years in Lubbock, Texas. When the Cougars open their 2012 season against BYU in Provo, Utah fans will notice three huge differences from the 2011 team.
1) The Air Raid Offense: The increasingly popular spread-formation offense featuring multiple four-wide receiver sets will become a staple of Cougar football over the next few years. Jeff Tuel or Connor Halliday will be given the opportunity to throw between 45 and 60 times a game while short runs will be replaced with a variety of pass plays designed to pick up 7 or 8 yards. Additionally, it is safe to assume the Cougars will finally play at a fast pace as Leach will look to catch defenses off-guard. With due respect to former Offensive Coordinator Todd Sturdy, the days of refusing to huddle, then letting the play clock run out are long gone.
In the past, quarterbacks under Leach’s tutelage have been given free reign to check off at the line of scrimmage depending on the defensive alignment. The Halliday v. Tuel battle for the starting spot will be determined by who picks up Leach’s schemes faster. Leach doesn’t have a traditional playbook, and he said in his autobiography that he refuses to use a two-quarterback system.
2) Wide Splits on the Offensive Line: Leach is known for spreading his offensive linemen about three feet apart. If the WSU line has trouble holding blocks, the splits will tighten up. If WSU makes monumental gains on their line and controls opposing defenses then the splits will widen as the game goes on. This coaching philosophy requires WSU’s linemen to be more athletic than in years past. With the return of Jake Rodgers, John Fullington, Wade Jacobson, Matt Goetz, Rico Forbes and Elliot Bosch, WSU will feature the best group of meat-graders it has had in years.
3) A More Aggressive Defense: To put it nicely, WSU’s defensive schemes during the past four years lacked creativity. Whether that was because of personnel or coaching ability is certainly debatable.
With the hiring of Defensive Coordinator Mike Breske from the University of Montana, the Cougars will wave goodbye to the bend-but-don’t-break style of defense WSU fans are accustomed to seeing.
Breske likes to blitz.
He likes to blitz a lot.
Logan Westom/Daily Evergreen
This will put more pressure on a WSU secondary that was mediocre in 2011. Simultaneously, it will give WSU defensive end Travis Long the opportunity to cap-off a consistent career with a spectacular finish. With offensive lines worrying about containing a bevy of blitzing linebackers, Long should be able to avoid the double teams that have limited his sacks during his first three seasons on the Palouse.